Writes Dave Weigel, associate editor of Reason, for the American Spectator.
A little more than a month ago, after former Rep. Bob Barr started to edge into the Libertarian Party’s presidential race, I had an idea. Former Sen. Mike Gravel, a former Democrat, was already gunning for the nomination. It wasn’t every year that politicians of the Left and the Right ditched the parties they’d spent their entire careers in to become Libertarians. I started planning an event with both candidates, jokingly promoting it on Facebook as a “great debate.”
I got a call from Wayne Allyn Root.
“What’s this I’m hearing about a Libertarian debate?” Root said. “How are you going to have a Libertarian debate without the guy who’s going to be the nominee?”
He laughed, but he was serious about this. When I wrote an early prognosis on the Libertarian race, I said Root — a sports prognosticator and gambling guru who’s hosted TV shows, radio shows, and motivational speaking junkets — was running third behind Barr and movement speaker and author Mary Ruwart. Root had called to point out that he, not anyone else making a run at the nomination, was on the phone with delegates every spare minute he had. Every minute, at least, that he wasn’t spending with me. “I’m calling up every one of these people who will actually be voting for the nominee!” Root said. “I talk to 25 or 30 of them every day!”
Root did talk to those delegates, missing only a handful, leaving messages on their machines. And he charmed his way into the forum I set up with Barr and Gravel. I watched as reporters flipped out cameras and digital recorders to capture the wisdom of the former senator and the lion of the Clinton impeachment, then saw Root struggling to convince them that he, too was a frontrunner. The day after the forum, Root called to laugh about the Washington Post’s photo of the event, which cropped him out. “I’m going to frame that and put it on my wall.” He laughed again.
In Denver, as the LP settled on its ticket, Root got his bragging rights. On the party’s fifth ballot, he fell short of the party’s nomination but held a stockpile of delegate votes that made more than the difference between Barr and Ruwart. He took the stage, pumping his fists. “I want to spend the next year learning from the master,” Root said. “Barr/Root ’08! Come on, let’s bring it home!” The guy the national media mostly ignored ended up on the highest-polling (at this moment, at least) Libertarian ticket since the Reagan years.